FACTCHECK: Gianforte's Misleading Campaign Ad

MISLEADING CLAIM #1: “Jobs lost” [On Screen: Bull Mountain Mine Cuts Jobs-Independent Record, 12/30/2015]

  • FACT: Bull Mountain Layoffs Due to “Sagging Global Markets” Not Steve Bullock. From the Independent Record article that is cited in Gianforte’s ad: “In the weeks leading up to 66 jobs at its Montana coal mine, Signal Peak Energy was scaling back exports to sagging global markets, according to shipping company reports… ‘Due to pressures from soft coal markets and a lower production budget for 2016, Signal Peak Energy has been forced to restructure its workforce,’ the company said in a press release.” [Independent Record, 12/30/15]
  • FACT: Under Bullock’s Leadership, Over 20,000 Jobs Have Been Created. From the Flathead Beacon: “The state’s economy added 10,224 jobs over the year for a growth rate of 2.1 percent compared to the long-term average of about 1 percent. It marked the second year in a row of over 2 percent growth. In 2014, Montana had once of its strongest years for the state’s economy, adding 12,633 jobs for a job growth of 2.6%. The state added 7,880 jobs in 2013 for a 1.7 percent growth rate.” [Department of Labor; Flathead Beacon, 1/26/16; Department of Labor]
  • FACT: Montana’s Unemployment Rate at 4.2%, Nearly a Full Point Below National Average. As of June 2016, Montana’s unemployment rate is at 4.2%, nearly a full point below the national unemployment rate. [Bureau of Labor Statistics]
  • FACT: More Montanans are Working Than Ever Before. According to the Department of Labor, more Montanans are working today than ever before. [Flathead Beacon, 1/26/16]


MISLEADING CLAIM #2: “Economy shrinking” [Montana Economy Shrinks for Second Straight Quarter-Flathead Beacon, 7/31/2016] –Note-Citation is incorrect, should be attributed to AP

  • FACT: Cited Study is “Limited” and Doesn’t Take Into Account State Economy as a Whole. From the Billings Gazette: Patrick Barkey of the Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research “said the BEA numbers, while worth looking at, have limits. Employment and personal income estimates for the first quarter of the year are very early and are always revisited and adjusted by year’s end. The numbers for specific sectors like energy or agriculture can also be volatile, varying widely from quarter to quarter, but taking the state economy as a whole on the same rollercoaster ride.” [Billings Gazette, 7/29/16]
  • FACT: Montana Economy Grew 3.5 Percent, Seventh Best Showing in the Nation. In 2016, from the Great Falls Tribune: “Montana’s economy grew a strong 3.5 percent in the third quarter of 2015, the seventh-best showing in the nation, the U.S. Commerce Department reports…Montana trounced the nation’s overall 1.9 percent GDP increase in the third quarter.” [Great Falls Tribune, 3/07/16]
  • FACT: State Economy Up Over 6,000 Jobs and By More than $600 Million in Wages and Salaries. From the Bureau of Business and Economic Research: “In the fiscal year (FY) 2015, the state economy was up over 6,000 jobs and by more than $600 million in wages and salaries compared to the previous fiscal year.” [Montana Economic Report, 2016]
  • FACT: Construction and Manufacturing Posted Large Growth Rates. From the Bureau of Business and Economic Research: “Construction and Manufacturing were especially strong, posting percentage growth rates of 8.5 and 5.5 percent in FY 2015, respectively.” [Montana Economic Report, 2016]
  • FACT: Montana Has Been Named the Top State for Entrepreneurial Activity Three Years in a Row. From the Missoulian: “For the third year in a row, Montana has been named the top state in the country for entrepreneurial activity by the Kauffman Foundation’s Index of Startup Activity. According to the report, there are 540 new entrepreneurs for every 100,000 adults in a given month in Montana, up from 490 last year. Montana significantly outpaced the national average of 310.” [Missoulian, 6/17/15]


MISLEADING CLAIM #3: “Surplus spent” [On screen: Dip in State Revenue Prompts Concern Among Montana Officials-Flathead Beacon, 5/10/2016] Note-Citation is incorrect, should be attributed to AP

  • FACT: Under Bullock, State Revenues Are the Highest in History. FY 2016 was the second best revenue year in the state’s history. Since Steve Bullock took office in 2013, the state has had the highest revenue funds in state’s history. [Office of Budget and Planning]
  • FACT: “Montana Will Have More Than $300 Million in Reserves at the End of 2016.” From the Great Falls Tribune:  “In a memo Friday to Bullock, Villa said Montana will have more than $300 million in reserves at the end of fiscal year 2016.” [Great Falls Tribune, 8/02/16]
  • FACT: Bullock Vetoed Spending to Maintain $300 Million Rainy Day Fund. From the Missoulian: “Gov. Steve Bullock signed the Legislature’s main budget bill Friday – but not after first using his line-item veto authority to strike a small portion of the spending.…’I asked the Legislature to pass a budget that didn’t spend more than we take in and that left $300 million cash in the bank for a rainy day. Unfortunately, they didn’t,’ Bullock said in a statement. ‘Therefore, I’ve had to veto and line-item veto more bills than I would have liked to, in order to keep the state’s financial position strong.’”[Missoulian, 5/03/13]
  • FACT: Gianforte Opposed Maintaining $300 Million Rainy Day Fund, Called for Reducing It. From the Missoulian: “Gianforte has called for the state to reduce the size of its informal savings account by at least a third from Bullock’s $300 million minimum, echoing some Republican legislators who think more of that cash should stay with taxpayers or be spent on infrastructure projects. Bullock and other Democrats caution that keeping less than $300 million in the bank could create cash flow problems and might harm the state’s bond rating, which influences interest rates on debts.” [Missoulian, 6/26/16]
  • FACT: Under Bullock, Montana was Ranked the Most Fiscally Prudent State in the Nation. In 2014, from the Missoulian: “Montana ranks as the most fiscally prudent state in the country, a study in Governing magazine shows. A study by Michael Cembalest for J.P. Morgan sought to measure how much state governments owe in bonded debt and liabilities for pensions and other post-employment benefits such as retiree health care.” [Missoulian, 6/27/14]


MISLEADING CLAIM #4: “Colstrip closing” [On screen: Montana Coal Plant Colstrip Will Close Two Units by 2022-Climate Solutions, 7/18/2016]

  • FACT: Colstrip Owners Cited Low Natural Gas Prices as Reason for Closure. From the AP: “Colstrip co-owner Puget Sound Energy of Bellevue, Washington said low natural gas prices have made the plant less economic, and without the settlement Colstrip could have been forced to purchase costly pollution controls.”[AP, 7/12/16]
  • FACT: Bullock Opposed the Shutdown.” From the AP: “Bullock reacted angrily to news of the shutdown. He said the state was left out of discussions over Colstrip’s future that took place among attorneys involved in a 2013 lawsuit from the Sierra Club and Montana Environmental Information Center. ‘The parties in the lawsuit took care of themselves. There’s nothing about the workers, nothing about the community,’ Bullock said.”[AP, 7/12/16]
  • FACT: Bullock Released Energy Plan That Would Preserve Coal-Fired Power Plants. From MTN News: “Gov. Steve Bullock Tuesday, unveiled what he called his ‘blueprint’ for energy development in Montana, saying he wants to boost wind and solar power-while still preserving coal—fired power plants as long as possible…The plan calls for a $5 million state fund to finance energy-conservation projects in schools and local-government buildings, and reducing electricity consumption in Montana by 10 percent in nine years. And, finally, it would demand ‘fair treatment’ for Montana’s coal industry under federal carbon-emission regulations, more funding for carbon-capture research and look for “creative options” to extend the life of coal-fired plants at Colstrip.” [MTN News, 6/21/16]


MISLEADING CLAIM #5: “49th in Wages” [On screen: Tax Return Data Puts Montana Wages near Bottom of Nation”-Great Falls Tribune, 4/12/2015]

  • FACT: Montana Has the Sixth Fastest Wage Growth. According to the Department of Labor, Montana has the 6th fastest wage growth in the nation over the past five years. [Labor day report 2015]
  • FACT: Gianforte’s 49th in Wages’Statistic Has been Called Out For Being “Misleading.” On Face the State, political scientist, David Parker called out Gianforte for using a misleading statistic: “So, I went and actually looked at the data directly. It is from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. The number is actually pretty misleading because it only includes W2 income, where income from salaried people, but we have a lot of small businesses here in Montana. I actually went and pulled out my tax returns. My wife was a consultant for many years. She didn’t have any W2 income, but she is included in that denominator- the average. Basically take every tax return filed and they take the W2 income and divide it. Isn’t that really bad number to actually look at our economy here when it is really not reflective?” [Face the State, 1/31/16]
  • FACT: Many Farmers, Ranchers, Telecommuters, Entrepreneurs-Not Included Gianforte’s Stat. From Professor David Parker: “Consider the nature of Montana’s economy. In 2015, we ranked number 1 (and indeed, have been number 1 for quite some time) in the Kauffman Index of Startups. Put simply, we are a state full of small business and sole proprietorships—with people eager and willing to take risks. Many farmers, ranchers, telecommuters, tax accountants, consultants, plumbers, tradespeople and the like do not report W2 wage income either.” [Big Sky Politics, 1/28/16]
  • FACT: Montana Ranks Number 1 in Entrepreneurial Activity—Not Included in Gianforte’s Stat. For the third year in a row, Montana has been named the top state in the country for entrepreneurial activity by the Kauffman Foundation’s Index of Startup Activity. Business income is often not recorded as wages and salaries that the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse relies on in its assessment that Montana is 49th in wages. [Missoulian, 6/17/15]
  • FACT: Montana’s Retired Population Skews Wage Statistic. From Professor David Parker: “Consider that some people derive no income from wages in a tax year. Some of these people are retired, some are students, and others live off of the capital gains or other sources of passive income. Yet these folks need to file a tax return—but are included in the data to compute the wage average despite having zero wages. This will serve to drag down the average wages…..if a state skews older (which Montana does) or has a high number of retirees receiving income from passive investments (see Big Sky, for example), then this biases the wage average downward.” [Big Sky Politics, 1/28/16]
  • FACT: Small Businesses Employ 67% of the MT Workforce. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, Montana small businesses employed 235,935 people or 67.4% of the private workforce in 2013. Small businesses tend to pay lower wages than larger businesses. Over 42% of U.S. workers are employed by a business with 100 or more employees, compared to only 22.6% in Montana. [, Small Business profile; Department of Labor, December 2015]


MISLEADING CLAIM #6: “Kids leaving” [On screen: Talent Drain: Montana has trouble keeping young college graduates-Missoulian, 7/18/16]

  • FACT: “Vast Majority of Montana Residents Who Enroll in Colleges Here Remain in the State.” From the Missoulian article cited in Gianforte’s ad: “The total number of college-educated workers in Montana is not shrinking. From 2008 to 2014, the number of college grads under 35 in the state grew from 38,000 to 46,000. That’s because the vast majority of Montana residents who enroll in colleges here remain in the state after graduation.” [Missoulian, 7/16/16]
  • FACT: About 80% of Resident Students Graduating from Montana’s Universities Entered Montana’s Workforce. According to the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, “79% of resident students graduating from the MUS found employment in Montana within one year of graduation, up from 74% in 2009.” [Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, MUS Strategic Plan Workforce Development, 2016]


Misleading Claim #7: “A billions dollars missing” [On screen: Audit Shows Problems in State Financial Reporting-Great Falls Tribune, 6/25/15]

  • 2016 Audit Shows Montana’s Financial Statements are Error Free. In 2016, a new audit showed that Montana’s financial statements are error-free and that the department improved its internal controls, including establishing protocols that helps detect errors. [AP, 4/28/16]
  • Republican Senator Taylor Brown: No Impact on Taxpayers. In 2015, Republican State Senator Taylor Brown confirmed that the audit showed no fraud or incompetence and that there would no impact to taxpayers. “I think it’s safe to say this is an anomaly, that if it’s addressed, and we expect it will be, then there should not be any impact on the taxpayers,” said Taylor Brown. [KRTV, 7/02/15]
  • “Moody’s: State Financial Report Errors Not a Credit Concern.” In 2015, from the Flathead Beacon: “Legislative audit officials told lawmakers last week the problems had the potential to downgrade Montana’s high rating. A downgrade would make it more expensive to borrow money. But Moody’s Investors Service vice president Ken Kurtz said in a statement to the Associate Press Tuesday that although the weaknesses in the state’s internal controls is a concern, there is no indication that Montana’s financial condition has worsened.” [Flathead Beacon, 7/01/15]
  • Montana Ranked Most Fiscally Prudent State in the Nation. “Montana ranks as the most fiscally prudent state in the country, a study in Governing magazine shows. A study by Michael Cemblalest for J.P. Morgan sought to measure how much state governments owe in bonded debt and liabilities for pensions and other post-employment benefits such as retiree health care.” [Missoulian, 6/27/14]


Misleading Claim #8: “Misuse of the state plane” [On screen: Bullock campaign reimburses state for airplane use-Great Falls Tribune, 8/3/2016] Note-Citation is incorrect, should be attributed to AP

  • FACT: Bullock Reimburses the State for All Campaign-Related Time. Governor Bullock adopted a policy to reimburse the state for any increased cost associated with ancillary campaign events. From the Missoulian: “Gov. Steve Bullock will reimburse the state for travel using the state-owned plane that coincided with campaign events, going back to the start of his term.” [Missoulian, 3/19/16]
  • FACT: Former Governors from Both Parties Have Similarly Reimbursed the State. From the Billings Gazette: “Previous Montana governors had similar policies of paying the additional flight costs of attending campaign fundraisers or rallies on the same trip with state business.” [Billings Gazette, 3/22/16]
  • FACT: Bullock Uses Plane Less than Any Previous Governor. Governor Bullock uses the state plane less on average than any previous governor. “According to numbers provided by the governor’s office, Republican Gov. Marc Racicot used the plane an average of 212 hours a year, Republican Judy Martz used it an average of 218, Democrat Brian Schweitzer used its 217 and Bullock is averaging 191.” [Great Falls Tribune, 4/22/16]


Misleading Claim #9: “Federal regulations strangling our way of life” [On screen: Rising costs make closure of Montana’s largest coal-fired plant ‘a foregone conclusion’-Montana Public radio, 10/28/2015]

  • FACT: Bullock Cut Hundreds of Regulations. In 2016, from the Main Street Montana economic report: “A recurring theme heard throughout the Main Street Montana Project was the need for government at all levels to be more responsive to the needs of businesses by streamlining duplicative, outdated and ineffectual rules and regulations. To that end, 460 such agency and board rules have been repealed and 1452 have been revised to make state government more efficient and effective.” [Montana Economic Development Report, Released, January 2016]
  • FACT: Bullock Opposed President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. In 2015, from MTPR: “Governor Steve Bullock issued the following statement on the Clean Power Plan President Obama announced today: ‘At first glance, it looks as though the Obama administration has moved the goal post on us. I am extremely disappointed by this. I understand that we need to address climate change but how we do so has to work for Montana. The rule is very complicated and we will carefully review it and make sure we fully understand the implications for Montana’s economy and the future of energy in our state.’” [MTPR, 8/03/15]
  • FACT: Bullock Supported Attorney General Fox’s Lawsuit to Reconsider Carbon Emission Rule. In December 2015, Governor Steve Bullock issued the following statement on Attorney General Tim Fox’s request for reconsideration on carbon rule: “I support the Attorney General’s petition for reconsideration filed today regarding EPA’s Clean Power Plan rule. As I have said, in the final rule EPA moved the goalposts and left Montana with one of the most stringent standards in the nation. Under the proposed rule, we had done a significant amount of work to develop possible ways to comply but all of that work was tossed aside by EPA in the final rule, sending us back to the drawing board.” [Release, 12/21/15]
  • FACT: “Workers Stand With Bullock Against EPA Clean Power Plan.” In 2015, in an op-ed, the Boilermakers 11 Union wrote: “Gov. Steve Bullock should be applauded for standing up to the extremist actions of the EPA on its Clean Power Plan efforts. He has pointed out the absurdity of the plan recently to the EPA, and with a plan that better suits Montana economy….Gov. Bullock stands side by side with workers and families whose livelihoods depend on Montana’s vast coal resources and abundant power generation opportunities in opposition to the EPA’s grand schemes.” [Independent Record, 9/20/15]
  • FACT: Count on Coal Said Bullock Taking “Balanced Approach.” In 2015, Governor Bullock established an advisory council to help craft Montana’s response to the Clean Power Plan. “Shelby DeMars, spokeswoman for Count on Coal Montana said it appears the governor is taking a balanced approach…..” [Flathead Beacon, 11/12/15]
  • FACT: Bullock Set up “Working Group” to Explore New Owners for Colstrip. In 2016, from MTN News: “Gov. Steve Bullock said Tuesday he’ll form a ‘working group’ to explore whether NorthWestern Energy or others might buy three Colstrip power plants, to ensure they keep operating. ‘I really want to explore the possibilities of, as we go forward, making sure that decisions made about Colstrip are made here in Montana,’ he told MTN News. [MTN News, 4/06/16]


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